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Motorcycle community thrives in Calgary

Patrons attend the Calgary Motorcycle Show at the BMO Centre on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Photo by Ashley Orzel)

Patrons attend the Calgary Motorcycle Show at the BMO Centre on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Photo by Ashley Orzel)

During a Calgary deep freeze, hundreds gathered at the BMO Centre for the 18th annual Motorcycle Show to prepare for the 2017 riding season.

“I actually think the weather helped us this year,” said Seamus Toner, project coordinator for SAIT’s motorcycle safety and maintenance training courses, and a SAIT representative at the show.

The event took place Jan. 6 to 8 and featured two-wheel, three-wheel, and four-wheel vehicles.

Toner said attendance seemed to be higher than in previous years, and registration for SAIT’s motorcycle safety and maintenance training courses in the coming months were filling up quicker than usual.

In 2015, SAIT started offering motorcycle safety courses as part of SAIT’s School of Continuing Education, running from April to the first week of October.

“In the first year, we were at 60 per cent capacity,” said Toner. “Courses now run 70 to 100 per cent capacity.” 

The courses were created after seeing a demand and wanting to expand the scope of classes offered in the Health and Public Safety department at SAIT, said Toner.

“It fits nice on the safety side of things.”

He described the motorcycle culture as very popular in Calgary, even when considering the long winter months.

SAIT’s motorcycle safety and maintenance training courses boasts the “largest unobstructed area for training in Calgary,” said Toner, and at $450, he believes it’s the best-priced course being offered.

All training motorcycles are supplied by Blackfoot Motosports, and courses are offered at SAIT’s Art Smith Aero Centre.

Toner said there is a large mix of people registering for the courses, from experienced to beginners, males and females, and all age groups.

SAIT also has motorcycle parking that Toner said is consistently full with 40 to 50 bikes parked there.

With the introduction of the carbon tax in Alberta on Jan. 1, Toner added that biking is better on gas and suggests it as an alternative to driving vehicles to help save money.

“People are thinking: good idea, ride a bike,” said Toner.

Laurie Paetz, show manager for the Motorcycle Show, said that the riding community is already gearing up for the spring with the event.

“It’s a playground for power sport enthusiasts.”

Paetz added that southern Alberta has a very active power sports community, which may be due to the proximity to the mountains.

“People love to ride,” she said, “[The show] brings the riding community together.”

Paetz said she has noticed a rising trend of women getting into biking.

“For many years, women were on the back of motorcycles. Now, they have more disposable income, it’s becoming a fashion statement and [they are] participating.”

Paetz said they’ve noticed 10 per cent more women are coming to the shows, and riding schools and clubs specifically for women are popping up in the community.

She said they have also noticed a rising trend in the younger generation getting into riding, especially with manufacturers offering retro-looking bikes and customization, which seems to appeal to millennials. 

With more people getting into riding, Paetz emphasized the value of training courses, such as the ones offered through SAIT, to ensure riders are safe on the roads.

“Here in Calgary, [training schools] should be mandatory,” said Paetz.

“People not only learn the ins and outs of operating a motorcycle, they learn about being aware on the roads.”

Courses offered through SAIT

Motorcycle Maintenance (MOTR 118)

Introduction to Motorcycles (MOTR 119)

Motorcycle Operation and Safety (MOTR 139)

Motorcycle Class 6 Road Test Preparation (MOTR 134)

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